For two weeks, from July 25 to August 5, Benoît Reitz (EPITA), Philippe Chassagnard (EPITA), Thomas Bacoup (IPSA) and Sébastien Patour (IPSA) participated in the buildings of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States at IDC Robocon. During the 22nd year of the event, Benoît Reitz’s team came third.
A competition of endurance in a mythical place
IDC Robocon is an international competition organized by a consortium of the most prestigious universities and schools in the world, in which students from eight countries form joint teams competing under identical conditions of hardware and equipment. During these two very intense weeks the candidates housed in student residences at MIT have barely time to breathe. The program is tough: breakfast at 7 am, conference at 8 am on the problems encountered during the previous day, and team work from 9 am to 11 pm, with only two breaks for meals. They have only Sunday to visit the corners of this famous place.
For Philippe Chassagnard: “One of the major difficulties of the IDC Robocon is communication. Each of us is placed in a team where he does not know the other members. But we must work with them effectively despite linguistic and cultural barriers. In my team, we did not all work the same way and we had mixed knowledge. We had to overcome these difficulties to build a robot that could stand out. If we were not able to impose ourselves, it is because of operational errors. “
It is ultimately the strategy of Benoît Reitz’s team that paid off: “Our robot was not the most efficient. But our tactic was to keep preventing our opponents to score points. “
Continuing in robotics
If the primary purpose of Evolutek is to prepare its members for the Coupe de France of robotics, in which the association came fifth last year, IDC Robocon has specificities that make this event very useful for students. “During these two weeks, various sessions were held to upgrade the participants on a particular aspect of robotics, said Olivier Widar, the head of the association. For example they might not have had training on the Arduino programming, which is used to control the robot and different types of sensors.”
Throughout the year, members of Evolutek from EPITA, IPSA and Epitech (all schools of IONIS Group) come together to work on the robot that they will represent to compete at the Coupe de France. Thomas Bacoup, a student at IPSA, extols the virtues of teamwork: “The tasks are divided into three areas: mechanics (mainly IPSA), Information Technology (EPITA and Epitech) and finally Electronics (the 3 schools)”. This is an opportunity for students to share their skills and gain a real versatility needed in robotics.
There is no specialized school of robotics in France. A number of students who go through Evolutek then choose to continue in the field, either by integrating in research laboratories or by joining specialized companies. Two former members of the association – Pierre-Yves Vachot (IPSA – 2010) and Stanislav Rudico (IPSA – 2010) have worked at Aldebaran Robotics. At EPITA, the specialization “Software Engineering and Real-time Systems” and “Cognitive Science and Advanced Computing” potentially lead to robotics. The area of armaments in France is the closest to the field of robotics and provides bright career prospects, notably at institutions like the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and companies such as Safran and MBDA.